Process Lockdown

Process LockdownWe all love “processes” as project managers. Everything has a process. From the time we get up in the morning to the time we go to bed at night, we find ourselves following a process and encouraging others to do the same. It may be a checklist, a workflow, or a procedure. Whatever form it takes, we find great joy in the process.

But, when is enough, enough? When does creating processes to follow become too much? It’s easy to take process and process creation to an extreme, immediately feeling that anything that goes off track or that is not executed flawlessly needs a process wrapped around it. This type of attitude can quickly get out of control.

For example, I know of someone who was recently involved in a project where the only thing that went awry was that the wrong date for a deadline was included on a communication that was sent out. This was a simple, one-time mistake. It was no big deal and it was correctable…but, it was quickly blown out of proportion. Next thing you know, VPs were involved, meetings were called, escalations ensued, and email threads steadily grew. The result? A process that locked everyone down tight, took twice as long to get things done, and it was unnecessary.  All of this because of just a simple mistake.

When do you need a process? There are three areas where I think process is important.

  1. A predictable point of failure. If something goes wrong every single time, at the same place, and with the same people – this would be a good place for a process to be implemented.
  2. Anything that is mission critical. These are those activities and projects where there is zero-margin for error. This is where life and death are involved , for example, medicine or rocket science.
  3. Anything that is being done by new people. They may be entry-level people, or individuals that are being trained. They certainly would be grateful to have a process to follow.

So, let’s not get crazy when it comes to processes. Mistakes happen. It doesn’t mean that you need to put everyone in lockdown.

What do you think? What are some examples of processes that have gotten out of control or when do you think is the right time to implement a process?


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